Monday, 26 September 2016

Bromley (Kent) Poor Law Union children fostered 1885-1902

The Boarding Out Committee of Bromley Poor Law Union minutes in the first volume of held by Bromley Historic Collections record the development of the use of foster care for children in the care of the Union.
The 25 November 1870  General Order of the Local Government Board relating to the boarding out of pauper children formed the basis on which Poor Law Guardians could establish such provision. It was not until 1885 that the Guardians of the Bromley Poor Law Union established a Committee and elected a Chairman to effectively organise the placement of orphans or deserted children in "cottage homes" within the Union parishes. The criteria for children eligible to be placed was changed by an 1889 Local Government Order which widely expanded the eligibility for boarding out.
Although the record does not contain numbers of the children in the Union Workhouse at Locksbottom from 1885-1888 it does offer a clear record of each child and names and locations of their foster parents.
A total of 36 children were placed in 1885 and by 1887 this had reduced to 33. In 1888 the minutes record that 17 boys and 16 girls were located in the following parishes:
Green Street Green         2 boys
Farnborough                  1 boy      2 girls
Chelsfield                     2 boys     3 girls
Saint Mary Cray            5 boys
Saint Paul's Cray           no boys   2 girls
Bromley                       5 boys     4 girls
Hayes                           no boys   3 girls
West Wickham              1 boy      2 girls
Cudham                        1 boys     no girls
It is worth noting that this first group of children up to the beginning of 1887 are generally in settled foster care with few changes of foster parent unless essential and this group of children are visited by Relieving Offiver every two weeks. The Committee advertises the need for suitable foster parents and each District Relieving Officer must visit and inspect accommodation before the Commitee request the foster parent attends and completes a written undertaking before Committee.
In 1888 although the total number of children in the Workhouse is not known 12 children are said to be eligible in addition to 35 children boarded out by the end of 1888 7 children 5 boys and 2 girls remain awaiting foster carers.
The implications of the 1889 Local Government Order are considered by Committee - of 46 children in the Workhouse the Guardians identify 36 children now eligible for Boarding Out. The Committee finds and approves suitable foster parents in the Union so that by August 1889 23 children eligible are either in the Workhouse or in convalescent home at Ramsgate and by the final quarter meeting 8 boys and four girls await approval of Committee. It is also noteworthy that at the same time of this large increase in foster care two orphan infant girls and four months and thirteen months are subject of efforts to place with adoptive parents.
Bromley Poor Law Union had four districts each with a Relieving Officer and district Medical Officer. Both of these Union officers were required to report to the Committee;the Relieving Officer was required to see each child in his district in their foster home and make reports to Committe by entries on the back of report sheets. In May 1890 there remains only one child called Margaret age seven in the Workhouse eligible for foster parents and there are a number of foster parents approved and available to receive children. The expansion of the foster care leads the all male Committee to include Miss Isabella F Akers to join the Committee and this female pioneer is to dramatically change the care of foster children in Bromley. The Commitee also has a severe imbalance in demands upon it's Relieving Officers. It is estimated that around 60 children are cared for in 1890 of which 41 children are in the Bromley district reflecting the growth of population of the town and Bromley Common district. In addition to 82 visits a fortnight there are also responsibilities to escort Lunatics to the County Asylum at Barming Heath recorded in the Bromley Poor Law Union Lunacy Registers. In another district the Relieving Officer has 14 children to visit. Clearly the Guardians need to resolve these pressures.
In 1891 the Act for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children lead the Boarding Out Commitee to take all children in the Union under protection of that act and 65 children are recorded as being boarded out with an additional population of after care for those who have entered training or employment and are funded at either "full pay" or "half pay" by the Guardians.
In 1892 there are 30 children in the Workhouse 9 are eligible for boarding out and 3 for entry into service. Potential foster parents continue to exceed the need for children and Miss Akers by now an influential member of the otherwise male Committe begins to formulate plans to alter the handling of foster parents. In 1893 she gives formal notice to Comittee of a formal resolution to form a Ladies Committee of female vistors to take over responsibility for visiting each child and foster parent and presenting reports to the Boarding out Committee. Her proposal is unanimously approved on 22 December and she works with the Boarding out Committe clerk Robert Gordon Mullen to produce a printed Handbook for Lady Visitors.In January 1895 female Visitors from each parish in the Union are appointed by the Guardians who enter into correspondence with the Local Government Board to approve existing "Lady Visitors" and approve the change in treatment.
Bromley Poor Law Union was by no means unique in forming such a service but it is testament to Isabella Akers thorough work in her proposal that the Local Government endorses it;the only debate is with the Bromley Union custom and practice about paying foster parents for clothes mending and the remuneration for medical reports. Bromley Union subsequently conforms in both matters. Bromley Union records are a rare survival that enables searchers to explore this development in detail.
From early 1894 the Lady Visitors undertake visits to foster parents and I will blog on another occasion about the criteria used by them;one  Visitor Mrs Thomasset declines to follow the handbook instruction to examine boys underwear and the Committee approves her suggestion that she would prefer to visit "in her own way" to satisfy the Committee that clothing and food were adequate.
During 1893/4 the need for Roman Catholic foster parents vexes the Lady Visitors and Roman Catholic parishes as well as Boarding Out Committee. The Presbytery clergy at Saint Mary Cray are eneregetic in reminding the Committe that no child should be cared for by foster parents of another creed. Within Bromley Union no Roman Catholic foster parents can be found despite efforts on all sides and until 1902 this position does not improve resulting in children being boarded out where possible attending church and even Roman Catholic school. It also results in placement in a Roman Catholic institution rather than with foster parents.
During 1895 number of children in the Workhouse fluctuate from 52 in May to 93 during February 1895 but none are identified to the Committee as eligible for Boarding Out.
In 1896 a formally constitiuted Ladies Committe approved by the Local Government Board assumes full responsibilty for the care of children removing Relieving |Officers from visits unless requested by Committe Chairman or Clerk the number of children in the Workhouse fluctuates seasonally between 60-84 children while around 50 are boarded out with a number visited by ladies in after care.
From 1899-1902 only the number of children on full pay are reported to the Boarding out Committee so no number of children in the Workhouse is routinely reported In each year the following number of children are fully funded in foster homes:
1899     40
1900     41
1901     32
1902     33 to May 1902 when the record ends.
It will be seen that this volume of records contains phases of the development of foster care in Bromley. The initial phase found and supported children and foster carers and met the needs of children to live outside the workhouse and attend local village or town schools.
The impact of Miss Akers reforms until her illness in 1901 reduced her contribution and her death in 1903 is enormous and the by the time of her death female membership of the Boarding Out Committe under long serving Chairman Mister Gedney emerges from the record. The relationship between visitor and child continues into adulthood in many lives and the appreciation and support for valued long suffering foster parents is also evident.
It is worth recalling that throughout this period other well known fostering initiatives were beginning;two years after Bromley Union Doctor Barnado was to introduce fostering to help children in his care and other Doctors had developed after care for children from Workhouses. At the time of this record working class men did not have the vote neither did women have universal suffrage.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Bromley Poor Law Union Children Boarded out

Under an agreement between Bromley Historic Collections and Kent Online Parish Clerks from October 2016 I will be collecting for online publication on the Kent Online Parish Clerks website information about both children boarded out and where possible their foster parents.
This involves research in a variety of sources but is principally involved with two volumes of minutes of the Bromley Guardians Committee for boarded out children and  an 1894 handbook for lady Visitors attributed to Robert Gordon Mullen Clerk to the boarding out Committee.
In assembling a database of children referred to in Committee meetings and their foster parent name and parish or district I hope to guide the searcher to relevant pages of Committee minutes but also enable research to be undertaken on each parish within the union to enable a social history of the parishes to be attempted. Boarded out children attended local schools and school reports to the Committee are discussed each quarter; the funding provided to local school Boards is also revealed. The District Medical Officers reports to each meeting are also informative about child health and development.
The Committee records open in 1885 with an all male Commitee; however the inclusion of a female Committee member leads to the Bromley Union transforming the way in which children are boarded out and in 1893 the Committee unanimously recommends that a provisional Committee of Lady Visitors to Boarded out children in various parishes be formed.
The minutes record correspondence with the Local Goverment Board the approval of the Lady Visitors Commitee and the membership of approved visitors for each parish or district.
One feature of the cumulative mention of each child is a career in both entering the Workhouse foster care leaving school and entering employment. It is possible to see to some extent lives after 16 years of age and I have felt it important to include census references where possible to follow careers at work beyond the scope of the original Poor Law Union records of the individual.
This companion blog to the process will also attempt to illustrate themes to the work and an understanding of the boarded out children in the overall population of children in the Union Workhouse.
As in the case of the Bromley Union Lunatic registers transcripts undertaken in 2015 the role of both Lady Visitors and Relieving Officers are useful in forming a history of the development of the role of Social Work practice in the 20th century. When in 1894 lady Visitors began to fulfill their visits and reports the Union provided a printed Handbook advising of the duties and procedures that they were requested to make and the frequency of visits and arrangement of after care for children when the board of Guardians ceased to have financial responsibity. A copy of the booklet is held at Bromley Historic Collections handbook for boarding out Committee and visitors We are fortunate the Bromley (Kent) has  preserved Workhouse and Union record survivals with such detail. In the family historian's imperative to create family trees such record sources can be overlooked or neglected. It is hoped that this work will bring to life a social history of the period and the signifacnce played by Women locally in the provision and superintendence of homes within the limits of the Bromley Union for orphan and deserted children working also a five mile radius after care visit approved by the Local Government Board.
I hope in future blogs to offer a commentary  about the influential work of the first female member of the Committee who preceded by some years the election of a woman to serve as a Councillor in Bromley and whose work until her death in 1903 shaped the development of foster care for years to come.
Purely from the perspective of One Place Study as a Parish Online Clerk for Downe in Kent the records are valuable in identifying foster carers within the village and the support of villagers to maintain children in the village on the sudden death of a valued foster mother and children in the local school is moving. This is echoed in other parishes in the records.

© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016

Sunday, 4 September 2016

The Air Loom in the Bethlem Board Room 2016

In the 1970's I was introduced to the life of James Tilley Matthews who was a patient at Bedlam or Bethlem Hospital from 1797. His insistence that his mind was being controlled by a machine called the Air Loom which he believed was a terrifying French secret weapon directed at the Houses of Parliament in order to bring about revolutions,terror and war was referred to in a lecture at the Institute of Psychiatry
and I followed my interest in the man to the Bethlem Archive and read the accounts in Bedlam Apothecary James Haslam's book published in 1810. The illustration of the Air Loom had lead to a model of the Air Loom being created and this remains in the Bethlem Archive.
In 2003 Mike Jay published The Air Loom Gang and this was revised as The Influencing Machine in 2004.
In 2002 artist Rod Dickinson fulfilled a Commission and constructed the installation and audio soundtrack accompanying it for the Laing Gallery Newcastle. The audio soundtrack is available on Google Play and Rod's website on the link above enables the app to be downloaded as well as illustrating the installation.
When the former administration building was transformed to form the Gallery and Bethlem Museum of the Mind it was hoped to allow public access to the Board Room; the installation of The Air Loom coincides with the opening this autumn of the panelled boardroom which includes a chandelier from Bridewell.
The Air Loom was introduced to visitors on 3 September 2016 by Rod Dickinson in a talk about the influence of James Tilley Matthews on subsequent generations.
Essentially Matthews conceptualised a desktop with two giant levers and black and white keys which an operator could manipulate to influence an individual or group of people. Rod pointed to the use of desktop and desktop icons some 200 years later. He also showed a succession of concepts of Influencing machines in the 20th century including ken Adams designs for the set of the 1965 film The Ipcress File.
Although the installation has travelled to Germany it seems strangely at home in The Museum of the Mind and has attracted great interest this week. The installation in the Board Room will remain for six months;it remains to be seen what effect on the NHS Trust board who will continue to meet in the room will have on their governance of the Trust!
The Board Room contains the panelled walls removed from the Bethlem Hospital at Saint George's Fields (now site of the Imperial War Museum) a chandelier from the Bridewell and heraldic shields of the past Presidents and Treasurers of the bethlem Hospital since 1558.
The opening of the Board Room completes the  experience of the Museum of the Mind and Bethlem Gallery experience for members of the public and is another reason to attract the public to the collections conserved by the Archive. For details of opening times visit Bethlem Museum of the Mind  

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Reverend Thomas Bagshaw's order of 1785

Reverend Thomas Bagshaw was Vicar of Bromley, Kent from1744-1785 in succession to his father Reverend Harington Bagshaw vicar from 1698-1744. One of the historic entries on the Sextons Account which I have recently transcribed at Bromley Historic Collections (formerly Bromley Archives) is a page long entry of Thomas Bagshaw's "order" in March 1785 and  a separate list of person's to be "observed" as a result of marriage outside the parish whilst both living in it.
This era of ecclesiastical law in Bromley parish had included the penance of Ann Chapman whose promiscuity resulted in her giving birth to several illegitimate children and being called to "stand in a white sheet" in the church see my blog.
The entry relating to 1785 reads:
"List of those persons the the Reverend Mister Bagshaw has required proof of their marriage before he would church the woman
Kelly uptown
Mary Proudlove
Simon Hill
Skinner the Farmer
Mrs Townsend at Wigmore
ordered by him in March 1785 that those persons who marry out of the Parish if both live in it shall pay the same fees or he will sue them for it and they shall bring a certificate of their marriage otherwise he will not church the women".
The churching of women after childbirth is the ecclesiastical ceremony in which a woman is given blessing after childbirth. It was particularly significant to women who had still born children at this time.
On the same page in a separate entry are the names and occupations or spouse of three people to be "observed" presumably because they had married outside Bromley and had not paid fees to Mister Bagshaw.
This period of Bromley history had demonstrated the force of ecclesiastical law and the later bitter dispute between Bromley's Vicar and vestry over the appointment of Parish Clerk and the Vicar's sale of timber from trees in the churchyard showed that considerable power resided in law with the incumbent in a parish.
It is not known how these individuals were dealt with in 1785 when Thomas Bagshaw gave up the living.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Bromley Historic Collections

The demise of Bromley Museum in Autumn 2015 lead Bromley Council to conclude that it could offer collection displays within the Library and Archives building  Central Library.
With building work due to take place in late August and September the former Libray and Archives service is being rebranded as Bromley Historic Collections.
It remains to be seen how displays will meet the needs of researchers. There are already users of the artefacts which are produced alongside Archive users using the borough's document sources and the former role of Education Officer in the Museum service has fallen back to School boxes of artefacts for handling and teaching within curriculum topics.
The uncertainty of achieving this combined service has impacted the service offered by the Archive team as no events have been offered in 2016 in order to address a relocation of the entire Local Studies floor of the library.
On the positive side two digital image scanners and touch screens are now available for microfilm users and a digital book scanner is available for archived material.

 Three new computers are dedicated to family history use and the problematic general computer users are now accommodated elsewhere in the building. This has been a positive creation of a quiet study area;albeit this is often disturbed by noise levels from the General Enquiries from the floor beneath and the absence of any protection from such disturbance. The architecture of the 1960's has created a very poor environment fot quiet research and the addition of displays is likely to introduce some problems of disturbance around researchers.
At present there is a lack of power points to archive or museum collection users who wish to use persoanl computers which will hopefully be addressed by building works.
Meanwhile the exterior cladding of the entire museum and Theatre building has deteriorated in the last twelve months. The entrance to both buildings from Bromley High Street has had safety fencing to protect passers by from falling objects for nearly two years. In recent weeks large cracks have appeared on the uppermost floors along the High Street elevation and a cracked glazing unit in the Large Hall looks ominous. The whole buiding is starting to look neglected and underfunded by Bromley Council.
I have a personal interest in the Lubbock Collection and this will form part of the display on the second floor which has displaced material previously offered on the second floor Archives and Local studies area. I suspect that the display will be a small representation of the collection but will await the Autumn exhibition.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2016

Monday, 4 April 2016

Bromley Kent sexton's records 1809-1837

It has been a large undertaking to transcribe and proof read this large volume of records for Bromley Kent burials in several hands as a continuous record of the location and depth of burials in the churchyard at Bromley.
The volume is useful in understanding the land surrounding the churchyard and is also descriptive of the catacomb beneath the Ancient Parish church with its window location in one entry. Because of the descriptive references to the various neighbouring buildings and farm owners it is possible to identify the inhabitants of old Bromley. In 1809 the Rawes Academy was a large boys school and the sextons records indicate that Messrs Rawes had a paling fence oppsite the churchyard and a small wicket gate to gain access to the churchyard presumably for students and staff to attend church services. The account also records Doctor Ilott's house on another side of the churchyard and refers to a barn. There are also references to the different types of trees in the churchyard and to neighbouring farm and granary.
I have prevously blogged about my discovery of the Bromley Archives copy of Thomas Wilson "Accurate Description of Bromley" published in 1797 see here. On my rough sketch of the churchyard I think I can see the Rawes wicket gate and also the "Carriage Gate" entrance to the church and yard described in various accounts.
The locations of graves are measured using boundary features or trees or from existing tombs many described as with "rales" or flat stones or ledgers (a form of stone depicting a book). One is struck by the three dimensional nature of positioning burials in an ancient church yard. This account covers the Bromley response to the theft of bodies at Beckenham see my blog on the Beckenham Resurrectionists. From the outset of the volume it also records which bell was tolled for either the churchyard burial or the passage from bromley for burial elsewhere using either the Great Bell or small bell. In one case the bell is tolled for one hour although it was usual for the bell to toll the age of a person. There is a consistent fee of 7 shillings for the Great Bell and four shillings and sixpence for the small bell.
There was no "paupers grave" treatment at Bromley for the dead from the Poorhouse or Bromley Parish workhouse. Burials from there and from coroner's inquests regularly have the small bell tolled to accompany the interment which is in the next available location adjacent to other tombs and headstones. The grave is occupied by a number of burials and the burials tend to be shallower than neighbouring graves but there is no practice of using land at the edge of  the churchyard as "common" burial space.
In the accounts there are references to a Parish House at Bromley Common and given the field name Workhouse Field at Oakley Road and references to coffins made at the Parish House. It does appear that a second parish Poor House was occupied by the paupers from the Common and settlement at Skim Corner. The funeral accounts of both Joseph and Edward Dunn contain reference to "parish coffins" provided and I have formed the impression that paupers at Bromley Common which had a good deal of timber production woodbrokerage and sawmills were to produce coffins for both houses.
The entries have provided a number of blog entries including the death of Sarah Young in 1821. In most cases of a body found or sudden death or suicide the sexton records the circumstances to indicate suicide. Exceptionally Sarah's death is not designated as suicide. There are a number of deaths of people found in fields or drowned in ponds. Two deaths in sand pits (together) are entered and one in the gravel pit  "next to the Poorhouse". Outbreaks of smallpox claim young and old alike and there are a number of drowned persons in the moat of the Bishop's Palace mostly accidental but occasional suicides.
Another group of deaths are identified as patients under the care of Mister Scott famous surgeon and the number of patients treated is known to have been high so the death rate following surgery also seems relatively large.
In the era of the Napoleonic wars with France I was surprised to see a number of French burials. Since Shooting Common had a military encampment and soldiers were billeted in the town it surprised me to find a settled french population in Bromley.
Also associated with the war are deaths from injuries and reference to the death of fathers in Spain and in various regiments in other campaigns. There are also a number of amputees mentioned.
The early years of the record also identify the name of Bromley undertakers. These correspond with the Dunn funeral accounts ledgers that is the Dunn funeral business assisted various carpenters and cabinet makers from whom they purchased coffins at busy periods. There are a number of funerals recorded as being handed over for completion. R M Smith has a number of businesses in Bromley but ran a carpentry workshop; several of his employees are recorded at the time of their funerals.Smith also farmed land and owned rental properties known in the records as "Smith's Rents". Other undertakers are recorded as London or Stranger or name and the local parish such as Beckenham. Few in the local funeral trade could match the Dunn funeral business which undertook large funerals for the local nobility. The detail of the sexton's record series provide an insight into the funeral trade of the Georgian and Regency period and establishes Dunns as the leading undertaker in Bromley over this period.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Killed herself by passion:the death of Sarah Young of Bromley Kent

The sexton's account of the burial of Sarah Young at Bromley Kent on 12 July 1821  records that she was the 34 year old wife of of Henry Young a Wheeler at Widmore but intriguingly describes her cause of death as "killed herself by passion".
The description of the location of the burial plot leads me to speculate that Sarah's burial was not buried as a suicide and the entry is therefore all the more intriguing and unusual. The Sexton's account is usually meticulous in identifying the cause of unusual death using "death was occasioned by" to precede a coroner's inquest verdict. It is not unusual for the record to record "found" details for unexplained deaths or death by drowning or suicide by "reason of insanity" or a direct means. Was this phrase used as a euphemism?
Unfortunately there is no extant contemporary record from 1821 at Bromley Archives to shed further light.
Sarah's entry in the the parish register of burials makes no reference to her cause of death see Kent Online Parish Clerks transcript burials 1813-1836.